“We’re not going to let people be bullies in our community,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said at a news conference Wednesday. “And if you are, you’re going to answer for it, and that’s what we’ve done in this case.”
The Justice Department is investigating, military officials said, and Pentland is suspended from his instructor duties while his case pends. Calling the widely circulated video “our most valuable piece of evidence,” Lott thanked the person who filmed it and urged people to work with law enforcement “to make sure that we prevent the incident that occurred on Monday from ever happening again.”
The Washington Post could not reach Pentland for comment, and it was not immediately clear whether he has a lawyer. He was arrested Wednesday morning and transferred to Fort Jackson authorities late in the evening, officials said.
Pentland has said he feared for his and his wife’s safety, and the young man is accused of earlier assaults.
In the video, posted Monday night on Facebook, a young Black man stands on a residential sidewalk near a man identified by officials as Pentland. The confrontation unfolded outside Pentland’s home, officials say.
“Go away, right now,” Pentland says in the first of many commands to leave the area.
“Call the police!” replies the young man, whom authorities declined to identify on Wednesday. Off-camera, a woman who Pentland identifies as his wife shouts that law enforcement have already been called.
Pentland asks the man, “What it is you’re doing here?” and accuses him of “aggressing the neighborhood” and then shoves him as he walks away.
The man tells Pentland that he lives in the area and is “not harassing anyone walking through the neighborhood.” The woman speaking off-camera says later that the young man “picked a fight with some random young lady that’s one of our neighbors.”
“I didn’t do anything,” the young man says at one point.
“I’m about to do something to you,” Pentland says.
The sheriff’s department said Pentland pushed the man again after the video ended, knocking a phone from the man’s hand as he took pictures of the home.
Two reports of alleged assault were also made against the young man after deputies responded Monday, according to the sheriff’s department, and they are being investigated. The young man has “an underlying medical condition that may explain the behavior exhibited in the alleged incidents,” the agency said.
On April 8, one incident report says, the man allegedly put his arm around a woman’s waist, put his hand down the right side of her shorts and then put his arm back around her waist as her pants were partly down. On April 10, another report alleges the man repeatedly picked up a baby without permission and tried to walk away.
Pentland told officers who had responded to a “physical dispute” Monday that he pushed the man “in fear for his safety and the safety of his wife,” according to the incident report.
Deputies were told that the man approached “several neighbors in a threatening manner” and that someone had asked Pentland to “intervene,” the agency said in a statement.
Authorities sought to focus Wednesday on Pentland.
“There was some other things that occurred that really doesn’t justify the actions of” Pentland, Lott said at Wednesday’s news conference. He added, “None of them justified the assault that occurred.”
“It was terrible, it was unnecessary, it was a bad video,” he added. “The young man was a victim, the individual that was arrested was the aggressor, and he’s been dealt with accordingly.”
Pentland is a sergeant first class, according to military officials. Social media accounts linked to Pentland said he was a drill sergeant and has been stationed at Fort Jackson since 2019, according to the Associated Press. A Facebook account that appears to be Pentland’s was taken down Wednesday night.
Brig. Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr., Fort Jackson’s commanding officer, tweeted Wednesday that the “unfortunate incident” had “brought disrespect to @fortjackson our Army and the trust with the public we serve.” He promised “transparency” and shared an earlier statement that “the leaders at Fort Jackson in no way condone the behavior depicted” on the video.
Asked at the news conference about people protesting in the neighborhood, the sheriff said there was “no problem with people peacefully protesting.”
In videos shared on Snapchat and photos posted on Twitter, the crowd congregated past sunset, listening to speakers with a megaphone who spoke about racism, while deputies appeared to be monitoring the group. Two yard signs that said “Black Lives Matter” and “It’s about us” were at one point erected on Pentland’s lawn.
What started out as peaceful demonstrations became “disruptive,” a sheriff’s department spokeswoman said Wednesday evening. Deputies were called after 8 p.m. because “unknown protesters” vandalized the house, according to Deputy Sara Blann; they closed access to the street and surrounding area for nonresidents and took Pentland’s family to another location.
Tia Roach, 35, who lives in a different part of the Columbia area, watched the viral video Tuesday and thought of her 16-year-old son, Tayvion, and Black youths like him at risk of similar treatment. She went to the neighborhood Wednesday to meet with her business partner who lives there, but when she saw a group gathering in protest, she joined the crowd. Her partner recorded a video of demonstrators peacefully assembling, some carrying “Black Lives Matter” signs.
In an interview Wednesday night, Roach said the protest was seeking justice for the victim.
“At the end of the day, you can’t treat people like that and think that we’re not going to stand up for each other,” she said. “We’re going to stand up for our children, we’re going to stand up for our people and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
A retired Army staff sergeant, Roach said she felt upset that violence allegedly perpetrated by a fellow soldier could happen close to home.
“I served for this country, so why should I fear my son being able to walk down the street?” she said.